ABOUT: THE JEWEL & THE CONCOURS
It is fitting that when translated into Spanish, La Jolla means “the jewel,” because La Jolla truly is the diamond of the West Coast. La Jolla has become the embodiment of luxury, class and style in San Diego. The chic allure of La Jolla’s avenues has drawn the finest automobiles to this coastal town at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance and The La Jolla Motor Car Classic at the Concours.
The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance features various types of fine automobile gems. Past years have showcased horseless carriages, Italian marques, British marques, Woodies, 50’s classics, American sports cars, and the automobiles of Carroll Shelby. Spectators from all over the nation come to the breathtaking shores of La Jolla to view their favorite classics.
It began as the dream of a few La Jolla business owners who were looking for a way to showcase the beauty and charm of downtown La Jolla during the winter months. In 2003, Michel Ullman, Terry Underwood and Yvette Marcum met at Georges at The Cove restaurant and drew up plans to host a car show on the lawn at Ellen Browning Scripps Park. The three were part of the local merchants’ association, at the time called Promote La Jolla. They brought their idea to the association’s board; in response, a group of passionate members–including Tiffany Share, Deborah Marengo, Bob Meigs, Steve Edelstein, Bill Price and Greg Rizzi–joined forces with all-star event promoter Laurel McFarlane to form the La Jolla Motor Car Classic committee.
The committee was successful in securing the support and financial backing necessary to bring their vision to life, and in January 2004, the inaugural La Jolla Motor Car Classic was held with humble but auspicious beginnings. The event attracted a diverse field of about 50 hot rods, antique automobiles and classic cars, all owned by local collectors and enthusiasts, but the committee saw the potential to bring the show to the next level by enlisting the support of the local car collector community.
So in the spring of 2004, Edelstein reached out to two La Jolla car aficionados, Chuck Spielman and Neal Wichard, to help promote a show that would appeal to a concours-quality audience. Spielman and Wichard believed that the stunning and picturesque Scripps Park venue held the potential to rival Pebble Beach and attract a national audience of car collectors.
The two friends reached out to their vast network of fellow collectors, including Alan Taylor, a well-respected local classic car restorer, to help recruit high-end classic automobiles; they also asked collector Cy Conrad to help Meigs establish the criteria for judging the show. In 2007, Spielman brought noted collector Dave Darwin on board, who urged the committee to turn the LJMCC into a weekend-long event, including fencing off Scripps Park and making it a ticketed event, as well as introducing the first La Jolla Motor Classic Car Tour.
That same year, the committee designated the Monarch School, a San Diego school whose mission is to educate children impacted by homelessness, as a charitable beneficiary of the event. In the years that would follow, the event would expand its charitable contributions to include several other local charities.
In 2009 the Promote La Jolla organization turned the show over to the La Jolla Historical Society, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve and celebrate La Jolla’s diverse past, assumed the underwriting of the event. Trip Bennett, then vice president of the Society, appreciated the living history that the event provided and saw great value in incorporating the LJMCC as part of the Society’s mission. Bennett assumed the role of LJMCC chairman, an office he held until 2011. With Bennett’s leadership, the La Jolla Historical Society helped create the foundation necessary for the LJMCC to continue to grow and fulfill its potential.
In 2010, Spielman brought G. Michael Dorvillier into the fold to help the committee develop a stronger sponsor base and further secure the involvement of La Jolla’s merchants. Dorvillier stepped up to fill the role of chairman in 2011. At that time he committed to convert the event into a Concours and, along with event producer McFarlane, helped elevate the event to its current status as one of the world’s top collector car shows, according to Octane magazine.
One of Dorvillier’s meaningful contributions to the event came in 2012, when he changed the name of the La Jolla Motor Car Classic to the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance. Today, the Concours is filled with three days of world-class exhibitions and celebrations that inspire all who attend. In a nod to the show’s humble roots, the event also includes a free car show open to the public that connects Scripps Park to the Village.
From all of us at the La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, we thank you for your support and participation in this unique event that honors the automobile and its historical significance.
CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE: A Brief History
According to Webster, “Concours” comes from the French, and means “a crowd or confluence of things; also a park promenade.” The term conjures up romantic visions of beautiful women in haute couture in a park-like setting surrounded by sparkling coaches, glistening groomed horses, gorgeous flowers, champagne, fine art and sculpture, and later, by the finest automotive art.
Man, being the perpetual competitor, has generally sought to triumph. Civilized chivalry, combined with grandeur, became the prevailing spirit of the Concours d’Elegance. Originating in the late 17th century, the early Concours was a leisurely social affair where light-hearted competitions among coaches and fashions were rewarded with rosettes, wine and champagne. As coaches and carriages segued into automobiles in the late 19th century, the competitions became more defined. By the mid 1920s, no society season on the French Riviera was complete without a variety of organized Concours events.
As the romance of the Roaring 20s and the refined elegance of the 30s gave way to the perils of world war, we find the demise of the Concours as it gave way to the bare survival of nations. Once the free world was able to right itself and move beyond subsistence, it was the troika of visionaries Jules Huemann, Reverend Paul Woudenberg and Loren Tryon who in 1950 created what was to become the grandfather of all post-war Concours—Pebble Beach.
So, what for centuries had been a European staple has become a true international tradition. It pays homage to its French roots by its very name, and is patterned by the defined structure of judging rules. We wish to acknowledge and thank all of our past and present sponsors who have supported the La Jolla Historical Society in hosting such a first- class event. The La Jolla Concours d’Elegance today gives our competitors and spectators the opportunity to share this time-honored tradition. Enjoy!
–Dr. Cy Conrad, Chief Judge Emeritus